Tough qualifying for Morbidelli and Márquez in Australia
Chilly and blustery conditions turned today’s Moto2 qualifying session at the breath-taking Phillip Island track in Australia into a crash-strewn affair, with Team Estrella Galicia Marc VDS 0.0 riders Franco Morbidelli and Álex Márquez mounting a strong challenge for the front row before ending ninth and 14th respectively on the timesheets.
This afternoon’s 45-minute session was the first time this weekend that the Moto2 field had been able to ride the demanding 4.4km track in dry conditions, but the lack of forecast rain made tackling the fast and flowing sections no less complicated.
Ambient temperature struggled to reach double figures and track temperature only peaked at a cold 14 degrees in the qualifying session that was delayed by 30 minutes after more torrential rain caused the earlier MotoGP FP4 session to be red flagged.
With a powerful and unpredictable wind blowing in from the nearby Bass Strait, Morbidelli suffered a big crash in the braking zone at turn 10 while he was launching a strong challenge for a fifth front row start in his World Championship career.
His Team Estrella Galicia Marc VDS 0,0 crew did a fantastic job in getting him quickly back into the action, but with bitterly cold conditions resulting in numerous crashes, the 21-year-old fell heavily again but unhurt at the tight turn four right-hander.
Márquez started qualifying full of confidence that he could battle for a top six place on the grid after he ended an extended third practice session this morning in a morale-boosting fourth place.
This morning’s session was run over an hour to make up for lost track time when yesterday’s second practice session was washed out by non-stop rain.
The Spaniard looked well on course to fight for his fifth top six qualifying result in the last seven races when he fell heavily exiting turn eight after a collision with Julian Simon in the closing seconds. The former Moto3 World Champion was transferred by ambulance to the circuit medical centre where he underwent precautionary checks for back and abdominal pain.
Márquez has been cleared of serious injury but additional information on his condition and news on his participation in the 25-lap race will follow at the earliest opportunity.
Franco Morbidelli: 9th – 1’34’410
“To say qualifying was an eventful session would be an understatement to say the least. I was happy with my pace but the conditions became so tricky that I lost the front-end while braking in a straight line. I had no warning in both crashes and it is hard for me to explain why. Apart from the crashes I was feeling really good on the bike and I felt positive I could be starting from the front row. Hopefully we will see a big improvement in the conditions tomorrow because the cold and wind made it very difficult to control the bike this afternoon. I am optimistic of having a good race tomorrow because in both crashes I was fortunate not to be injured. I also hope Álex will be fine after his crash and we can both be lining up on the grid for the race tomorrow.”
Michael Bartholemy: Team Principal
“The weather has wreaked havoc all weekend and it was no different in qualifying this afternoon. The rain had been intermittent all day and, although it was dry for the Moto2 timed session, the track conditions were unpredictable and this resulted in a lit of crashes. Franco did well to qualify ninth despite two fast crashes in the 45-minute session. Álex was very unfortunate, as he was cautious all through the session, not wanting to risk a crash in the tricky conditions, but then got caught out right at the end. It sounds like Julian Simon ran out of fuel, causing him to slow without warning and Álex was unable to avoid colliding with him. He has been checked over in the medical centre and is basically okay, but he will now go to hospital in Melbourne for a further examination of his neck and abdomen, as he has pain in both. We will have to wait for the decision of the doctors about whether he will be fit to race tomorrow.”